15:08, October 01 209 0 theguardian.com

2019-10-01 15:08:04
Meghan sues Mail on Sunday as Harry launches attack on tabloid press

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex has take the unusual decision to sue the publisher of the Mail on Sunday after the newspaper published a handwritten letter she had sent to her estranged father.

The decision came as Prince Harry launched an extraordinary and highly personal attack on the British tabloid press and its treatment of his wife, saying he could no longer be a “silent witness to her private suffering”.

Emphasising his respect for the importance of “objective, truthful reporting”, he accused parts of the media of “waging campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences”, and compared the treatment of Meghan to coverage of his mother.

Referring to the treatment of Princess Diana, the duke said his “deepest fear is history repeating itself”. And he wrote: “There comes a point when the only thing to do is to stand up to this behaviour, because it destroys people and destroys lives. Put simply, it is bullying, which scares and silences people. We all know this isn’t acceptable, at any level. We won’t and can’t believe in a world where there is no accountability for this.

“I’ve seen what happens when someone I love is commoditised to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person.”

The statement, issued on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s official website on Tuesday, was published as Meghan moved to start proceedings in the high court over the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of GDPR regulations.

Meghan and Harry, who are on a tour in South Africa, have employed the libel lawyers Schillings using private funds to bring the case.

The Mail on Sunday has run multiple embarrassing stories involving the duchess’s father, Thomas Markle, including staged paparazzi photographs of him visiting an internet cafe to read about his daughter’s engagement to the prince.

However, the royals have limited ability to stop the publication of such stories, prompting the decision to focus on the publication of Meghan’s letter to her father.

In his statement, Harry emphasised that he and Meghan believed in “media freedom and objective, truthful reporting” as a “cornerstone of democracy”.

“There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face – as so many of you can relate to – I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been.

“Because in today’s digital age, press fabrications are repurposed as truth across the globe. One day’s coverage is no longer tomorrow’s chip-paper.”

And he added: “I have been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long. To stand back and do nothing would be contrary to everything we believe in.”

The Guardian reported this year that the Mail on Sunday was being threatened with legal action because the authors of letters retain ownership of the copyright even after the physical correspondence is in the possession of another individual.

A legal spokesperson for Schillings said: “We have initiated legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday, and its parent company Associated Newspapers, over the intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter written by the Duchess of Sussex, which is part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband.

“Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda.”